Tag Archives: Food

Time

Where does the time go?

I’d like to think it takes itself off for a nice vacation, doing whatever it wants to do instead of being constrained by responsibility.

Whatever it does, it has the habit of leaving us – arbitrary timekeepers that we are – wondering how it could be almost x time since we last did y. Like almost three weeks since the last blog entry.

Truth be told, I hadn’t been feeling all that well since that sinus infection back in May. Feeling nauseated almost constantly is not conducive to doing a lot of the things you normally would do. Pain? Meh, you could work through that in some fashion. But nausea? Nope. I was also having hot flashes like crazy. Terribly annoying.

Which is a roundabout way of saying the gardens suffered tremendously: overrun with weeds, beaten down by both the heat and the rain. We got some tomatoes out, but none of the big guys, and we got some beans and peppers out, but not in the quantity we have had in years past.

Colorful tomatoes: sweet million, sungold, indigo drops.

The people who ate these tell me they tasted fantastic.

The rest: determinate and not, paste, slicing,and heirloom, gave us nothing. My sister has been helping me out while I figure out what the hell was wrong with me, and I had her go ahead and pull out all the first round tomatoes. I have some in the garden that were started after the big batch of transplants, and I have some more started in the barn – two more sets, actually, with one set ready to get hardened off and then transplanted.

We did get some good blueberry action this year.

I used them in my shakes, and everyone else just ate them like normal people do.

So how did I get back to myself? I realized I had stopped taking the gabapentin (neurontin) back in May during the sinus thing, along with some of my other meds, because the combination of the antibiotics and meds that already have some side effects (like nausea, and other gastro issues) was making everything worse. I added those back into my routine, and presto! The gabapentin was prescribed for the nerve issues from my left neck down through my hand (hey, fuck you, cancer!) but amazingly, it also takes care of hot flashes. Who knew? Not me, or I would have twigged on that sooner than the past couple of weeks. Derp.

With the meds situation back in order, I’m now able to once again do things I need to do, like turn this:

Into this:

And finally, into this:

That’s a good late afternoon’s work there.It has to be done later in the day, because it’s been hot like the sun here  for weeks now. In the afternoons, we get storms rolling through – even if they don’t touch us directly, we usually get some cloud cover, and sometimes even a cooler breeze, which is nice.

Tomorrow, it will be on to the next row that needs to be weeded – the one to the left of this final picture. I’ll also be starting new soil block flats for the broccoli, cauliflower, brussels (ew) and maybe a couple of other late-season items, so they can go in to the rows and get grown before the season ends. It’s a nice goal to have, anyway.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Corn

I love corn (or at least I did in my former, eating life). It is, in fact, my personal windmill here at the ranch – I’ve tried to grow it here for years (until this year) and it simply doesn’t work due to the vagaries of our weather/storms. This year, I didn’t bother.

As many of you know, since about mid-April, I’ve been NPO. That’s “nothing by mouth” for those not into medical jargon. 99% of everything goes down the tube. That includes the high calorie formula, weighing in at 355 calories per eight ounce carton. Most of those calories come from two things: sugars and fats. The latter is oils (safflower, for instance). The former? Corn. Corn syrup and corn syrup solids.

Last month, I started getting some serious gatro aches after eating. I shrugged it off and continued on, because let’s face it, I need the calories. I went through a few rounds of dehydration through the month as well, because it’s just damn hard to stuff yourself full of fluids you would ordinarily drink along and along throughout the day.

I got past it, though I still had some gut things going on. I dropped the formula, and amazingly, while I was still a little weak from trying to get enough calories in otherwise, the gut stuff pretty much stopped. Until the other day, when suddenly, once again, I’m having the weirdest issues when I eat. I’ve checked everything going down, and no corn syrup/solids or HFCS. I pared down my meals, such as they are, and found less is better, even though this means I’ll have to eat more frequently throughout the day, which is really a pain in the ass. And my side still hurts when I eat anyhow, regardless of whether I feel like puking or not.

Recommendation: don’t get any kind of cancer that ends with you having to take your meals through a tube for the rest of your life. It sucks.

(Yes, before the questions come, I have an appointment with the gastro folks on Monday to see what the hell is going on.)

More like slow, am I right?

I’ve never liked the “am I right” thing tagged on to stuff people say. It’s annoying and I think it should be retired along with  “that’s what she said”, “I know, right?”, and the one I find the most annoying of all, “because (something).” We have the gift of words people. Surely you can come up with a “because” that illustrates what it is exactly, you’re trying to say.

Now, on to other business, and when I say slow up there in the title of this post, I mean the type of slow that happens when you’re waiting for time to pass in anticipation of an event. Like eating.

According to researchers, there are various benefits to fasting, and the latest one is that fasting – even for 24 hours – can help your body regenerate intestinal stem cells more quickly than it would otherwise.

Normally – and those of you who took anatomy and physiology may remember this – the cells in your intestines, just like in other parts of your body, but apparently fasting creates some kind of signal to hurry along the process.

So what’s the slow part of all this? Watching that clock, I bet, for most people, to see when that 24 hours of fasting is up so they can go right back to whatever it is they eat.

For me, I’m not going to be fasting any time soon. Not by choice, anyhow. My body gives me enough grief and times when I can’t eat as it is. I don’t need to help it along.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Early season

The early season harvests are all about green stuff, with a splash of yellow: lettuce, kale, asparagus, chard, peas, zucchini, squash…..and green beans.

Like squashes, green beans are amazingly prolific. Unlike squashes, they’re much easier to store. We generally just wash and dry them, then throw them as is into the freezer. I have a commercial style freezer, so it doesn’t take long for small things like beans to freeze decently, and practically takes no time at all for even smaller things like peas.

This means when the green beans start coming in, we don’t have to gorge ourselves – well, fam and friends don’t. We can preserve the harvest in this case via simple freezing. We could pressure can them, but we have a simpler route in this case, saving space in the cold room, but more importantly, saving time.

I had predicted early last week that we’d start getting the initial beans to sample this past weekend. I was right about that.

This variety is called Provider. it’s fast, extremely productive, sturdy, and produces beans on two nodes. It also has some of the prettiest flowers.

Now that this planting is beginning to produce beans, I’ll be setting out another round. Succession planting will allow us to continuously have fresh beans from now until the end of the year, as well as allow us to put a ton of them in the freezer (and possibly sell the excess). After the first two full picks, I’ll pull the plants and throw them on the compost pile, as generally at that point the bugs have figured out the plants are there. By that time, the new round of beans I’ve sown in another area will be producing.  At that time, I may put in another round – it depends on how much we can sell and can/want to freeze.

So, I am steeling myself for the harvest. As you can see behind this mature bean, there are tons of young ones getting into gear.

That’s good eating.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

Welcome to spring, Florida style

Finally.

We’ve had a bit of unsettled weather here at the ranch – Mother Nature has been a tad ambivalent about letting our “winter” go. Overall, it was a mild winter, with only a handful of overnight freezes, and if I ever get a greenhouse up, even those won’t matter. How mild was it, overall? So mild that these guys were all over the place at the end of December.

He and his pals vanished to wherever it is they hide out during cold weather a short bit later, as January brought with it not just a freeze, but sleet/freezing rain at a time it is normally dry here.

While that didn’t last long, it surely did make for some fine pictures: icy pines above, my iced over pear tree below.

Usually, I start the flats in the barn under the lights just after the first of the year. I’ve found, though, that the seedlings tended to get a bit leggy even with the lights right over them, and they were definitely getting rootbound before I’d be able to plant them out after two months in. The transplant date was also kind of iffy: do we go with our “official” last frost date for this area, which is around my birthday in March? Take a chance as I did several years ago and kick the seedlings out of the barn in early March, hoping there will be no surprises? Or do I change the entire thing?

Of course, it’s the latter: I started the flats in February this year, and just started putting out the seedlings over the past week and a half. I also waited to direct sow the other crops until April. That gut instinct turned out to be the right one: we had ourselves some random overnights right near freezing at the end of March, and some coolish temps in early April that would not have been all that great for germination of the directly sowed items beyond the shelling peas (and even half of those croaked because a few days later it was 87F before returning to milder temps).

Speaking of germination: for the first time ever here at the ranch, we have had 100% germination of all the tomatoes and peppers. It is astonishing: 274 tomato plants, and  227 peppers. I also have assorted brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.) and those appear to be at 100%, but let’s face it, the stars of the gardens are tomatoes and peppers, by far. This is also about the time of year I usually decide to tilt at my personal windmill and try corn (again), but I’ve decided to let that be this year and not deal with it.

Meanwhile, the blueberries, which I’d basically ignored and which I had not cut back, as “they” say should be done, are coming along nicely. I noticed the first blooms at the end of February, and at the end of March, even through some weird, drastically changing temps, it had started forming berries,

And now, we’re here in April. Lots of tomatoes and peppers in the rows, the directly sown zucchini and squash plants are nice and big, and they are now beginning to flower and form fruit, going from this

To this

In just five days.

Things are looking up at the ranch.

One other programming note: I was doing pretty well a couple of months ago, writing up something every day. Then life intruded at some point and once again, I did not see it through. This time, however, I am: I will post something, every day. It may just be a picture of something and a few words. It may be a recap of what’s going on in the gardens or with the bees. It may be about tech. Or it may just be ruminations on things. Whatever the case may be, the discipline to do this will help feed the discipline of writing every day on the novel side of my world, which has also suffered from my neglect.

No more.  I don’t need anyone’s approval, I don’t need to care what people may think, I don’t need to worry about failure – this is one of my worst fears – and I don’t need to worry about anything else in this world beyond calming my mind, focusing on the story I’m telling, and then tell it: write it straight through, without going back to edit until the work is complete. I hope my handful of readers, whoever you may be, will be watching my journey through all this, but even if you aren’t, I still have an audience of me, and sometimes that is (and has to be) what carries me through.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Spring?

Possibly. Who can say, Florida being what it is? That image is from yesterday, as I got caught up in other things before I was able to come back and finish the post. BUT: the forecast now is the same as it was on the 8th when I took that screenshot. It will be around 80F during the days, and around or slightly above 50F in the evenings.

Mother Nature can decide at some point to hammer down on us with more winter days, and she may still get around to that. For now, I’m cautiously optimistic to the point that I weeded out both the carrots/beets/radishes/kale row and the peas/cukes row in order to sow a few varieties of carrots, radishes, and shelling peas. If we get a hit of freezing weather, and sprouting stuff is killed, seed for these things is cheap. I can just throw some more seed into the rows.

Having said that, there are still carrots from last year in the row. I found today that something has been nibbling at the leafy carrot tops. Usually, that equals a bunny – and I have found rabbit nests in the asparagus and carrot rows before. That means another item for the todo list: do a walkaround of the fence, as there’s a gap somewhere that needs to be closed.

Things I did not get completed? Lots. many things. I’m not going to have one of those conversations with myself about why things didn’t get done and how I’m a slacker and bad person, though. Instead, I’m just going to recognize it for what it is: illnesses threw a wrench into the grand plan, and there’s little I can do about that.

I did get the hive equipment out of the barn, as the barn bees didn’t make it. I also cleared the last of the honey off the floor in there, and tested my grow lights. The fixtures I use have two lights. On some of those fixtures, one of the sides will not work, for whatever reason. That’s a bit of a bummer, as I like to spread light out across the entirety of the tables. Instead, I’ll use those at the sides, and let the dead portion of those fixtures be on the outside of the table.

Speaking of bees, with the warmer weather comes the rampup of queens laying and the possibility of swarming. I’m going to inspect hive #8 to make sure they have plenty of room to expand without being overcrowded. When spring officially arrives, I’ll be splitting that hive at least once, and possibly twice. That’s the plan, anyhow: keep this queen’s genes in as many hives as I can.

Time to wrap this up and get back to the various work I need to do.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

 

 

 

Gimme a B!

For bean. Or give me a G for garbanzo. Or give me a C for chickpea.

Do you sense a trend?

One of the things I used to make in my old life was garbanzo bean soup, AKA Spanish bean soup. After I stopped being able to chew and swallow stuff, I sort of lost my way on that and a bunch of other things. It’s only reasonable, I suppose, to get a bit depressed about the state of your being and realize that you’re going to have to bow down to the inevitable, as otherwise, you’re liable to get bitter about it, too. Knowing that you probably have a couple more decades on this planet and that this is how your life will be is just….well, it sucks, not to put it too bluntly.

The other conclusion that I’ve reached after years of working on the rehab side of thing, trying to get my mouth stretched against the damage and scar tissue gifted to me from the radiation to my head and neck – hey, fuck you, cancer! – is that I’m really never going to be able to eat anywhere close to how I ate  as a normal person. I’m not even going to be able to eat like I did when I was trying to save my teeth by shelling out thousands to my dentist, which wasn’t great, but at least it was real, solid food.

After reading up on the effects malnutrition can play once you’ve been hit over the head over and over by cancer (fuck you, cancer!), the treatments, the side effects of those treatments, and the lasting “gifts” from those treatments, I decided it’s going to be soups (non-chunky, please) and purees for me from here out.

I figured I would do some looking around at baby food makers, because most have all the functions built in these days: steam food and puree it, from the same appliance, without whipping a ton of air (and thus foam) into the food. While I was doing this, I was thinking about the food combinations that would be more like a real meal. A meat and three sides, for instance (and if you’re from the South, you’ll get just as much a giggle out of that as I did). Purees of my own slow smoked pork butts with my own bbq sauce, beans, cole slaw, and macaroni salad. Purees of my guacamole. And on and on.

So I picked up a variety of purees for for babies, figuring I could get a sense of what flavors worked together in that form, and how they tasted. I chose samples from three different companies  of the ones my Publix carried that were for babies about six months and up.

One word: gross.

Toddlers don’t exactly have refined palates. After all, anyone who has been around children know they will put almost anything in their mouth, from food to dirt to cat poop. This probably makes it easier to feed them the purees from the manufacturers and easier on the manufacturers to produce those. Who can fault any of this? Not me.

But if you’re an adult, faced with finding things to eat because your mouth and throat are basically that of a baby/toddler, these things can be pretty dreadful. Disclosure: I tried multiple items, from different producers, and they ALL tasted bad to me, even the stuff that was nominally just (say) a fruit puree. It’s damn hard to get an adult who likes peaches disgusted by a peach puree. Make that puree taste like tin wrapped around slime, though, and presto!

I wound up tossing “adult puree” into the Oracle and came away with some interesting things. One is that there is a company that makes purees, for adults, in cans. No offense, but I am not trying those. There are also sites with suggestions for people with dysphagia (trouble swallowing) and people on soft or what are known as “soft mechanical” diets – i.e., people with dentures or implants. Or people who can’t have implants and for whom dentures are out of reach, too painful, or physiologically a problem. Choose one or all.

The how to get to purees is simple: cook the food, puree it. The how to get there using what to puree it is not that simple. I looked at babyfood makers, as I said, because that’s what they’re designed to do: cook the food and puree it. I realized, when looking at them, that they would probably be insufficient, unless I wanted to be making food every couple of days. While I don’t eat a ton more than a growing baby does, I do eat frequently through the day. I needed something more robust, but I didn’t need a bottle warmer or a defroster/warmer, and I didn’t really need the high points a few of the reviewers pointed out in the ones I was looking at, because using both hands to deal with it wasn’t an issue for me versus the mom with a tot in one hand trying to get things done with the other. After doing some searching on what was better to puree, and reading reviews, I decided to get one of the Ninja brand machines that specifically got good grades on purees, and its other functions – like making shakes, which I will still be drinking – are those I will also use. It will also enable me to replace the current little blender I use to make shakes, so it’s a multitasker.

Now, I finally pulled the trigger on that Saturday night. Much to my surprise, Amazon told me it would be delivered Monday, thanks to Prime. Awesome! The problem: the United State Postal Service. More specifically, the rural USPS. Monday: no delivery. I knew – I knew! – the problem, because it’s one I’ve faced before.

Like many places now, we have a communal mailbox. Ours has two larger parcel boxes for things that won’t fit into the small mailbox for each house. If those are full, or the items will not fit, most of the time, the carrier will take them back to the PO. This is even though a) it’s roughly 200 yards from the community box to my front door, b) in the winter, like right now, you can literally see my front door from the box, and c) the fact they have to drive past my driveway not once but TWICE to deliver mail to another small cluster of houses that are built within my already small little area. We’ve had this chat with the postmaster over at the PO, and it’s made no difference: some of the rural carriers are shitty, and whether we actually get something on time that is either shipped USPS or where USPS is the last mile (common in rural areas where things are shipped by UPS or FedEx but end up at the PO for the final leg of delivery) depends on who is driving.

The other annoying thing about this is that I can’t just go the next day to pick up the package, because there’s no way to know if they will bring it out the next day and attempt it. So the next day, the carrier drops the notice in the box, and the day after that, I go pick up whatever it is. Two days later than the “guaranteed” delivery, because we have lazy carriers. It isn’t like they’re humping this stuff on their backs. I just can’t understand it sometimes, and I’ve given up on trying. I’m annoyed, though, because I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In any case, the Great Puree Test will have to wait until tomorrow. Who knows – if I can develop some good recipes, I could probably write a cookbook for people who either have the same issues as I do or care for someone who does. Or for moms who want their babies to go on a food adventure outside the stuff companies are making.

Until next time, peeps: be well. Don’t forget to chew your food thoroughly.

 

When life gives you fish (oil)

So Thursday was a pretty crappy day.

As my small but deluded devoted readers know, I put a hive with a very, very small population of bees in the barn to protect them from the freeze. I had found the queen (yay!) and they seemed happy enough. The past few days have been in the mid-70s, and when I checked on them on Thursday, I found it had gotten too hot in the barn with the heater running: one of the frames had its wax melted, and there was honey and wax all over the floor.

So, I had to clean that, scooping up the honey and wax with a bench scraper, and then washing up the mess. And…the bees were not in the hive box. They were clustered up again the window. I got them down, but did not find the queen. As the queen had one wing clipped, she certainly would not be flying anywhere. She was not in the box, not on the window, and I couldn’t find her amongst the bees that had finally reached their last shift and died.

I was taking a break from the cleanup to get something to eat, and had a coughing fit – a hard one – and my throat started to close. I wrapped one of those cold towels that you put in cold water and then snap to get excess out around my neck and tried to stay calm through the wheezing. It finally eased, and was fine the rest of the evening, although it made me a bit hoarse.

To top off my craptacular day, I was going to do a formula feed through the tube, and when I flushed the tube with water before starting the formula, I felt wetness on my abdomen where the tube goes in, and then on my hands. I wondered if I’d just not put the syringe fully into the tube, but nope: the tube itself had split open at the abdomen side. It’s been in place for eleven months, so it wasn’t terribly surprising, but it was (and is) annoying. When I coughed, a little squirt of belly juice would erupt from one of the holes the blowout had caused. I needed something to hold things together before Tuesday, when I’ll go to the hospital and the doc will replace the thing. I took a small binder clip (the black ones with the wings), clipped it to the tube at my abdomen just before the tube goes into my stomach, then wrapped gauze around that.

Toss in some other stress, and Thursday was a shitty, shitty day. I’ll explain the oil in the next post, as I’m typing this right now and suddenly feel like I’m about to barf.

Until next time, peeps, be well.

Business 101

Boss: “We’re a pretzel and chip outfit. What can we do with all the broken pieces that don’t make it through the line?”

Product person: “I have a solution, boss!”

Boss: “That’s a bonus for you!”

Product person: “But wait, there’s more! You know how some of the whole pretzels get knocked out of the sorting line because they’re overcooked?”

Boss: “Yeeeesss. Do you have something in mind for that?”

Product person: “Yes, I do!”

Boss: “Wow, Product Person, you are getting a double bonus for this.”

Product Person looks down, shuffles their feet: “Aw, thanks Boss.”

No disrespect to Unique, which appears to be the brand. Personally, I think this is marketing brilliance. Even if I could eat, I wouldn’t eat either one, but I’m sure others will. I picked up a bag of the “extra dark splits” thing up there, to force my family into taste testing them. Someone around here has to do it, now that I can’t.